When crimes occur such as homicides, shootings, assaults, rapes, domestic disputes, and property crimes, it is the police department that provides the thin blue line of protection for law abiding citizens against those intent on inflicting criminal harm. Since last April, that blue line has been allowed to get even thinner by the tragic layoff of 125 police officers and the retirements of 16 additional officers.
With this reduction in force our city police department has become overstretched, overworked and put in a dangerous position of fighting an out of control crime rate with a shrinking number of police officers. The people of Paterson know it. Certainly, the criminals who prey on Paterson know it. Now it is time for our local and state officials to acknowledge this law enforcement crisis and take action.
In previous letters I outlined four different policy plans Paterson could pursue to reinstate our laid –off police officers. None of these plans would cost Paterson taxpayers any “additional money.” For example, by attrition the city could “immediately” hire back two laid-off officers for every senior officer or superior that retired or plans to retire. That means 32 more officers on the street fighting crime. I think that is a good plan. As more senior and superior officers retire over the next several months the remainder of the laid-off officers can be returned to duty. All within the fiscal budget of the city, and at no “additional cost” to already hard-pressed taxpayers.
Without adequate public safety, private sector developers will be very reluctant to invest in our city. For Downtown Paterson and the Great Falls area to become commercially vibrant Paterson residents and visitors need to see effective public safety as part of the equation. The best public policy Paterson can pursue to combat crime is to support and respect our police department, and keep that blue line strong. Not just strong, but Paterson strong.
Dr. Joseph T. Atallo